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How to Build Trust and Create Developer Superfans
May 12th, 2021

How to Build Trust and Create Developer Superfans

Building trust with an untrusting audience can be a challenge. Unfortuantely for DevRel pros, developers can often fall into this category.

These tips from the TV show Ted Lasso can help you earn confidence and trust from your audience and create developer superfans.

Build trust through building a relationship

Ted brings Rebecca biscuits every day. You can see them in the cute little pink box on her desk. No matter how cold Rebecca is to Ted, exhibit A in this video, Ted continues to be kind to her and still shares things with her that she clearly seems uninterested in.

What Ted is really doing is starting a cadence for touch points with Rebecca. He is ensuring there is a designated time every day where he can slowly, over time, build their relationship. Rebecca is clearly hesitant and knows what Ted is doing, but when someone is bringing you yummy biscuits every day it's pretty hard to ignore that.

Building trust model

I've created a model that lays out three easy steps for building strong relationships with developers. All of the tactics I leverage for developers will work with other audiences too. 🙌

I developed this model because developers are naturally untrusting individuals. They can see through your marketing jargon and look right past your sales gimmicks.

Step 1 — do the research

In Ted's case, he's bringing Rebecca biscuits every morning so he can do his research. He's trying to leverage any opportunity he possibly can to learn more about her. She's a hard nut to crack, and he has no choice but to be creative.

In the case with developers, you likely don't have the opportunity to bring them biscuits every day, so you need to find a better way. To find that way, you need to better understand them individually.

  • Where do they work?
  • What are they building?
  • What do you think they're possibly motivated by?
  • What are some of their personal interests?
  • Do you have any commonalities you can showcase?
  • Do they have a pet? Everyone likes sharing pics of their pets 🐶
  • How can you provide them a small value?

In general, take a few minutes to research the developer, or community member, you want to engage with.

Once you've done your research, you can now create a great introduction message to send to them. Mentioning their work or projects, ideally finding something to compliment them on, and then leaving a lingering question that ties into their personal interests. If someone was doing this for me, here's a great way to start the conversation.

Hey Tessa! I saw your tweet about your first 90 days as head of developer relations. What an interesting read! I really liked how you outlined bullet points for folks to be able to compare a developer advocate to a developer relations leader. Thank you for shedding light on this topic. I also noticed you loved dogs, here's a pic of my furry friend, Lucy.

In summary, this approach:

  • Addressed the person by name, correctly
  • Made it known that the person did their research by referencing their work
  • Complimented work they clearly care about
  • Added a little personal flare to pique their emotional interest

Step 2 —provide a value

While you're doing your research, you probably learned a lot about this person. You likely learned enough to be able to brainstorm a few pieces of value that you can provide to this person.

When I say provide a value, I'm referring to doing an action for a community member that will help them—you may benefit from this value too, but that is not the goal. This is 100% about them. It could be:

  • Network introduction
  • Product recommendation
  • Sharing relatable content
  • Investing in their work or projects
  • Tips or tricks that may interest them
  • Access to your team or product in some way
  • A million other more creative ideas!

We've started the conversation out right in step 1. Now think about the value you can provide for your community member between the research you did and what you're learning from your conversation with them.

It's imperative you provide this value in the very first engagement session you have with them. If you reach out via a Twitter DM with a message similar to the one we previously constructed, be ready to provide a value in your first or second response.

If you're not getting a response, try providing a value as your second communication to them. Of course you want to curate this message carefully because there's a reason they didn't engage in step 1.

Ted didn't give up when Rebecca was cold to him during most of their early engagements. Expect this from developers. As far as they know, you're just trying to sell them something or recruit them. Developers get drilled by cold outreach, especially poorly executed recruiting, and their natural reaction is to ignore you.

Step 3 — make the ask

You're building up this relationship with someone for a reason. Either they're someone who you feel your community can benefit from, or maybe you're hoping to capture feedback or insights from this person. Whatever your end goal is, you're now ready to make the ask.

To reiterate, we researched the person first, then we started a conversation that proves we did our research, we then provided a value of some kind to this person. Now they're slowly beginning to trust you in these early steps.

Use your best judgement to get a sense of how this person is feeling about the engagement from the other side. Developers tend to be really hard nuts to crack too, like Rebecca, but with a little effort and attention, you can change all that.

How you engage with this developer, or community member, in this ask is going to shape the rest of your relationship together. How will you make this ask as easy on them as possible?

Key things to think about when making your ask

  • Make your first ask as simple as possible, you want to build a relationship over time. Start small.
  • Make it as easy as possible on them.
  • Be prepared and ready. Don't make them wait on you.
  • It's always about THEM—find a way to make your more demanding requests still about them. How can you reframe the context to highlight the benefits first?

Your hard work will pay off

If you continue to follow the building trust model, time and time again with this community member, and others, you will be slowly building an legion of advocates who will be armed, equipped, and ready to support you!

When you take the time to get to know someone, it's nearly impossible to ignore them. Humans like companionship, even developers who get a bad rep for being introverts. We all just want to have people around us that support us and what we love to do. If you're doing that, they'll be happy to continue to help you.

A few things that your super fans will either naturally help you with, or will be excited to dive into, depending on what they're motivated by.

  • Curate & write reviews on peer review sites like G2 crowd & Trust Pilot
  • Recommend your product to others
  • Tweet about you or echo your tweets
  • Content curation — blogs, code samples, tutorials, etc.
  • Public speaking & presentations on your product
  • Moderate your community or at least contribute greatly
  • Product feedback and internal feedback loops
  • Review GTM campaigns — why not ask your super fans what they think?

All you need next is a rock-solid advocacy program to leverage their dedication and advocacy.

How do you think Ted did overall building a relationship with Rebecca?

Be like Ted. Make the biscuits. Be authentic and you'll have new developer friends in no time.

This article was originally posted on Devocate, which joined the Common Room family in August 2022. For more developer relations insights and resources, check out the Common Room blog. Learn more about Common Room’s solution for DevRel teams if you're looking for an intelligent community growth platform to educate, empower, and enable your community.